Practicing Assessment in the Modern World

When I was in college, the thought of having to pay someone to do my college exams seemed ridiculous. When I finally made my way to the library and studied, I soon found out that I could take the test, ace it, and still not be able to afford the classes I needed to graduate. My parents and I threw a party and then hired a tutor to help me finish the classes I missed. This was my first encounter with professional practice assessment centers, and I’m writing about it now because I think it’s important for students like me to understand what they are and how they work. In this article, I’ll share what I learned.

Many people assume that the tests college students take are just simple review tests. These tests are not usually timed, but instead are typically multiple choice or judgment questions. A student might be asked a question, “Explain why this is so.” They might then be expected to demonstrate how a topic fits into a logical sequence, infer an idea from examples, infer an argument, solve a problem based on given inputs, or infer a scientific result. Students often fail because they simply don’t pay enough attention to the assignment, or they didn’t pay enough attention to the concept being tested.

The purpose of these assessments is not to test subject matter knowledge, but rather to assess how a student can work independently using various concepts that they’ve learned in their courses. In my opinion, this makes them less useful than a sit-and-wait test, but I recognize that some instructors insist on them. It’s up to you!

As an adult, I am very familiar with the SATs and the APs. While I can’t imagine sitting for a college course test without taking one, I know that I have an advantage when I practice my thinking skills and general knowledge skills through practice assessment. As a college student, it is much harder to think analytically (I can’t perform a back-reflection) when you’re in college. This is where the skills I’m talking about come in handy.

I believe that we should consider the practice and assessment as tools for furthering our college student’s educational success. After all, a college student must think critically and independently in order to succeed. Unfortunately, some of those skills don’t show up during the college student assessment because the student doesn’t pay enough attention during the class itself. Assessments make it possible for those skills to be practiced.

Of course, some instructors will argue that assessments don’t really provide any practice, since the student has already been tested. I would beg to differ. After all, in real life, people practice things over. A long commute in a car with nothing to do will not help a person become a good driver. They’ll simply remain blind to the flaws in their habits.

Fortunately, there are some schools that allow students to do practice and assessment without violating the code of conduct. In these settings, students have the opportunity to go through practice exercises and assess their skills, prior to taking the assessment. Typically, these centers are located in an area where traffic is not an issue, and the layout is designed to be simple and conducive to learning. Another advantage to these settings is that the instructor (or whoever is administering the assessment) does not have to spend a lot of time instructing the students, so motivation isn’t an issue!

So why not take advantage of practice and assessment centers? There are many benefits, but most importantly, they offer a valuable opportunity for a student to enhance their understanding of the subject matter under study. As instructors, we always want our students to become experts in whatever subject they are studying. This type of learning provides an ideal vehicle for realizing this goal.

Practicing Assessment in the Modern World
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